Office for iPad Team Confirms Ballmer Approved Initial Plans

The Office for iPad team held an IAmA (as me anything) on Reddit earlier today.  The team is actually rather small and is the same group that writes the Office for Mac applications.  While there was not anything groundbreaking revealed, there were some interesting questions answered.

Q: Hi! Where there any unforeseen complications in the making of these apps? How did you handle it?

A: Yes, we ran into a number of complications, most of them involving resource constraints. For example, if you opened a document in Word with a lot of comment bubbles, Word would run out of memory. Fixing some of these required re-architecting some features, which is one of the reasons it took us so long.  –Rick

To pile on to what Rick said, PowerPoint ran into similar resource constraints for SlideShow. We wanted to make sure that everything worked as you would expect (transitions, animations, etc.) and as you can imagine that is quite hard to do on a small device. We had to make several trade-offs to get the experience just right for our customers. -Sukhmeet Toor, PowerPoint for iPad/Mac

Q: Serious, but straightforward: why should I use your product instead of Pages for iOS?

Pages is pretty cool, but Word for iPad is real Word which means that you never need to worry about your document looking weird when you bring it to your iPad.

Q: Hi guys, how long does it take to compile the apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint)? And how many lines of code are there? 🙂

On a top-of-the-line MacPro, it takes about 6 hrs to build all the apps. On an iPad, it’ll probably take a year 😉 Office has several million lines of code — more than a million, less than a billion 🙂 -Sukhmeet Toor, PowerPoint for iPad/Mac

Too long, and lots! Seriously — Our iOS code is shared with our Mac Office code so it’s difficult to separate out how long each flavor takes to build.

I work with Apple’s developer tools (Xcode, clang compiler, etc) and we’re always looking for ways to improve our build performance. -Schwieb (developer tools wrangler)

Q: 1) How big is the MS Office iPad team? 2) Is the team new recruits or moved from other projects inside Microsoft? 3) How long did it take from Design to Release? 4) Any new or interesting features under progress?

1) About this big (and we do Mac Office too!) 2) We are our own, happy team. People can definitely apply to join the team from other parts of Microsoft just like any other team though.  3) A while, but it was worth it in our opinion to deliver what we think is a great touch version of Office. 4) Yup! One of the great things about Office 365 being a subscription is that you can expect to get frequent updates, so stay tuned! We think you’ll like them. –Dan, Excel for iPad

Q: What is the difference between save and save as. Someone said save as reorganizes the file to make it smaller is that true??

The difference between “Save” and “Save As” harkens back to the old, binary file format in Word. We wrote a “fast save” feature that, basically, dumped the edits to the file. A “full save” would compact the file, but took longer, because it had to walk through the whole document. After a number of fast saves Word would do a full save anyway, but you could always ensure a full save by using “Save As.”

With the XML-based file formats, there is no longer a difference between “Save” and “Save As”. – Rick (gray-bearded Word developer)

Q: Finally that we now have #OfficeforiPad I’m just curious about one which is, What sort of role did Satya Nadella play in bringing MS Office to our iPads?

Thank you! Steve Ballmer approved the plan to ship Office for iPad, before Satya became CEO. Since Satya has been CEO, he has been very supportive of the effort. — Kaberi, Technical Product Manager, Office for iPad

Are you going to include a flight simulator?

That was Excel 97, and if you find the temple you can see my name scroll by.

Easter eggs are frowned upon nowadays (apparently too many people spent too much time at work searching them out and playing the mini-games) so we don’t make them anymore.

There is an easter egg in the old Remote Desktop Connection app that I don’t think anyone ever found… -Schwieb

Q: I am able to open a Word document on my ipad when it’s sent as an attachment from a Zimbra email account, but not when it’s sent as an attachment from a Gmail account. Is there some Gmail setting I need to tweak when sending a .docx file so that Office on the iPad will recognize it? Thanks!

Gmail chose to override the iOS Quick Look, so your best bet is to tap the Open in Safari, and then Open in Word/Excel/PowerPoint. – Derek Johnson, Sr. PM Lead, PowerPoint for iPad/Mac

When will Office get printing? what about business users that do not want to use O365?

Print is a high demand feature that we intend to introduce in due course. Office 365 is a service, we are able to bring you and business users the latest and greatest Office at any given point in time.Thanks for the feedback. Sangeeta Mudnal, Group Program Manager, Excel

Has your iPad work delayed the next version of Mac Office? I’m still waiting for a real Cocoa version of Office (AFAIK 2011 still uses Carbon primarily, despite a few Cocoa UI elements).

The code for Office for iPad and Office for Mac is shared, as the development platforms for both are very similar. 🙂 The iPad work required us to create an all-new UI and to redesign the interface between UI and the internal logic. That work actually helps us with de-Carbonizing Office for the Mac, instead of delaying or hindering it. We’re able to create new Cocoa UI on the Mac and tie it into the new logic interface now. -Schwieb (development tools wrangler)

1) Office posted yesterday a picture of your iPad lab where you test these apps. Can you tell us more about the testing lab setup? Any special challenges with testing iOS devices? Also, does it feel like Christmas Day when you get that many iPads in and unbox them all?  2) What’s your favorite free beverage at Microsoft? 3) Any chance you would consider adding a pass code lock to Office for iPad apps?

The lab is an impressive sight ( and getting a bunch of new ones is absolutely like Christmas.

Office for iPad test labs 1

Wireless saturation was an issue, since we actively use them for automated testing. We had to add extra access points just for this part of the lab. We also went through a few different cabling and racking solutions, we needed them to be facing forward so we could interact with them, but also fold up out of the way so we could get access to the Macs behind them.

Coke Zero + Lemonaide  -joe

Is Satya the MSsiah like the tech media is portraying him? How much of the recent headline-making moves can be credited to him, and how many were Ballmer’s?

 The decision to ship Office for iPad was made before Satya became CEO. Steve Ballmer approved the plan to ship Office for iPad. — Kaberi, Technical Product Manager, Office for iPad

Best prank during development?

Don’t leave your office empty over the holidays… -Derek Johnson, Sr. PM Lead, PowerPoint for iPad/Mac

We had a team karaoke event and some of us convinced one of our dev managers to sing “Barbie Girl” with us. A few months later, he went on an extended vacation, and we took the opportunity to upgrade his office to a Barbie Princess theme:

We also stuck a speaker in his ceiling tiles that played Barbie Girl nonstop for a while before he figured it out and took it down… Nell

Another time, a different one of our dev managers was moving on to a new team after a long tenure with Apex. As a gesture of farewell, someone moved his entire office out of his actual office and in to the lobby a few days before he was scheduled to move to a new building. (He used his “new” office right up until the day the movers carted his stuff away!) –Jonathan

Q: So PC or Mac? HueHueHue

Well, you know whom you are talking to 🙂 -Jeff

Q: Do you feel like traitors to the rest of Microsoft?

This will date me, but, when I applied for a job at Microsoft, my resumé said that I was interested in working on application software for Windows, Unix and OS/2. Microsoft hired me to work on Word for the Macintosh, and I’ve been a Mac developer ever since. So, I’m a Mac person because of Microsoft. If that makes me a traitor, it’s all Microsoft’s fault. –Rick

We may be those crazy Apple/Mac/iOS people, but we’re still Microsoft! (I get more funny looks from my team for my Windows phone than from the rest of Microsoft for my iPad. :-D)  -Nell

This quote from Satya says it all for me: “…we are absolutely committed to making our applications run what most people describe as cross-platform great. There’s no holding back of anything. It is about being able to excel everywhere our customers are. One of the questions is, is this a massive tradeoff for you? There is no tradeoff. It’s reality for us. It’s not a competitive reality. That’s not what motivates us. What motivates us is the realities of our customers.” So I feel like my work is more aligned than ever with the company’s vision. -joe

Most definitely not–this is what I see on the Microsoft building I walk into… -Derek Johnson, Sr. PM Lead, PowerPoint for iPad/Mac

There were a number of questions the team either refused to answer or gave non-answers too.  There is still no word about an Outlook app for the iPad.  The Office suite for Android tablets is still planned but no timetable yet, but will likely be after modern office comes to Windows 8.  Office for Mac is still being worked on, it may come this holiday season, but no official word yet.

Read all the questions and answers on Reddit.

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